The science of health, well-being and transparency

The science of health, well-being and transparency

The science of health, well-being and transparency

Smart-glass that can switch from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button may seem like the kind of technology ‘80s kids dreamed of – a far-off fantasy set in 2125 – but now, companies are putting LCD technology to use that is bringing interior design and fit out into the 21st century with style.

Eyrise, a Merck subsidiary, has long been the market and technology leader in liquid crystal technology, having developed the first widely used ultra-transparent privacy smart-glass for other uses. With this tech to hand, the team knew that by placing the liquid crystals between glass sheets (and thus not allowing it to move freely), the technology could be brought to a whole new level: privacy smart-glass that can switch instantly from fully opaque to fully transparent in one click.

Eyrise’s new i350 privacy glass is a market-changer for design and build companies, because, unlike other products available previously, this privacy glass is completely clear in every way – even when viewed at an angle – and can switch from opaque to transparent instantaneously. This leap in product development technology is already predicted to take the interiors world by storm, particularly in the Covid era.

Celine Glipa, CEO of eyrise B.V., part of the Merck Group, isn’t just the head of the company, she’s a scientist who’s worked with this kind of technology and many others, for many years.

Transparency, privacy and ethics

“The development of the privacy glass wasn’t only about privacy,” she explains, “it was primarily about health and well-being. People in a workspace need to be able to control the flow of light, to be able to work in private or to feel connected, depending upon the need.

“Particularly in the world after COVID-19, people are going back to the office more and more and they want to feel safe – to have some barriers – but not to have those barriers prevent interaction or feeling connected. And of course, in an office where you can see through glass partitions, the feeling of space helps contribute to productivity. The practical application of being able to ‘shut out’ your colleagues while you need to really focus, and then to open back up and connect, is a great one.

“We see the new transparent privacy glass as contributing to the trend in architecture which is a shift from pure sustainability and energy saving to health, productivity and well-being.”

This is the perfect time to launch a product that allows people to feel connected while still staying safe. In fact, according to a recent study by engineering group Elementa Consulting, transparent privacy glass has had a positive impact on employees’ health, productivity and sense of well-being. Add to that the option to toggle from protecting confidentiality to maintaining a feeling of natural light and open spaces – and you have a winning design.

But more in importantly, as the pandemic-era world moves back to normality, employers will have a responsibility to make sure their physical spaces are comfortable and safe for employees. In fact, a recent poll by HR consultancy Personnel Today showed that 65% of employees are anxious about safety when it comes to returning to work. With economies worldwide impacted by Covid-19, employers will be competing for the best in talent and a swift way to recruit the best staff is to show a commitment to privacy and safety.

The science behind the i350

“All switchable privacy smart-glass technologies that use liquid crystals on the market are PDLC,” Glipa explains. “The difference is that PDLC embeds the liquid crystal in a polymer matrix, so the crystals cannot move that freely. This results in lower transparency – particularly when viewing from an angle.

“What we do differently is to place the liquid crystal material between glass sheets, not using polymer foils. By using this method, we achieve full transparency as well as the fast-toggling ability.”

The company believed in the technology so much that both the existing eyrise s350 solar shading glass for façades as well as the new i350 invisible privacy glazing were used extensively when it redesigned its own headquarters in The Netherlands.

“The entire office building was retrofitted with dynamic smart-glass to create an interactive environment that offers solar control and privacy for employees, and a space where visitors can experience its benefits first-hand,” says Glipa.

She continues: “Staff can individually control solar shading and privacy control via a newly developed app, ensuring continuous comfort and well-being. The data provided will be used to steer future digital developments as part of ongoing research into optimising customer experience.

“It sounds cliché, but anywhere we can add happiness, we can be more productive and healthier, particularly after what we have been through [with the pandemic], that’s a good thing and that’s really what we wanted to do, is create better environments.”